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ILO reports on Thai fishing abuse

03 Sep 2013
The scale of the problem in the Thai fishing sector was unknown. Photo: ILO/John Hulme

The scale of the problem in the Thai fishing sector was unknown. Photo: ILO/John Hulme

A new report co-authored by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on working conditions in the Thai fishing sector – the largest survey to date – has highlighted “severe labour shortages”.

According to the report, Employment practices and working conditions in Thailand’s fishing sector, the majority of the 596 fishermen interviewed, most of which were irregular migrants from Myanmar and Cambodia, entered the sector voluntarily. But, 5.4% stated that they were deceived or coerced into working in fishing.

This was especially evident among long-haul fishers, with 16% stating they did not willingly decide to work on a fishing vessel.

Professor Supang Chantavanich, director of the Asian Research Center on Migration, Chulalongkorn University, added: “This improved understanding will help to formulate evidence-based policy responses for regulating the recruitment and employment of fishers and preventing and eliminating all unacceptable forms of work.”

Worse still, 17% said they were working against their will and unable to leave because of financial threats (12%) and the threat of violence or denunciation to the authorities (4.9%).

The report also highlighted the fact that 94% of those surveyed did not have a written contract outlining working hours and terms of payment and found 33 children under the age of 18 working on fishing vessels.

Thailand is a major supplier in the global trade in fish products, with fish exports exceeding US$7bn per annum in recent years.

“Improving working conditions is also vital to addressing the severe labour shortages in the fishing sector, and to ensure the sustainability of the industry,” added Professor Chantavanich.

The ILO will now work towards strengthening protection for fishers, implementing measures to improve labour inspection and occupational safety and health, and the deployment of a code of conduct and good labour practices training for vessel owners and captains.

 

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The scale of the problem in the Thai fishing sector was unknown. Photo: ILO/John Hulme

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